Charles E. Entenmann, the last of three brothers who, along with their mother, ran a Long Island bakery as it grew into one of the nation’s best-known bakery producers, died Feb. 24 in Hialeah, in Florida. He was 92 years old. .
His daughter-in-law, Wendy Entenmann, confirmed the death.
At Bay Shore High School’s 50-year reunion in 1997, Mr. Entenmann told his classmates that he was “just a baker,” a low-key description that conjured up the artisanal image of a little store like the one his grandfather had opened nearly a century earlier. .
But mass production had long since become a way of life at the company’s Long Island factory, and Mr. Entenmann, who had a knack for engineering and administration, presided over the automation of cake making lines. He also oversaw the design of a computer-controlled system that routed ingredients to the mixing vats.
The product in the white boxes with the cellophane windows did not change, however, and he argued that this consistency was what sustained Entenmann.
“We survived where so many other fine bakery houses have gone because we stuck to quality and devised ways to control quality,” he told The New York Times in 1976. The two millionth piece of cake doesn’t just have to be good – it has to be as good as the first.
The first had been baked by his grandfather William Entenmann, who came to New York from Stuttgart, Germany, and in 1898 opened a bakery in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, making rolls and delivering them from a horse-drawn carriage. When his son caught rheumatic fever, he moved to a place where he hoped for cooler air: Bay Shore, on the south shore of Long Island.
As the company’s operations expanded there — the factory eventually covered 14 acres — the cake was added to the product list. Morgans and Vanderbilt have enjoyed a share from time to time, according to the company’s website. In the 1950s, Frank Sinatra placed weekly orders for breadcrumbs at the cafe.
Charles Entenmann and his brothers rose to executive positions in 1951 after the death of their father, William Jr.. In the 1970s, the executive suite was a single room with four Chippendale desks: one for Mr. Entenmann, two for his brothers and the fourth for George Rosenthal, the company’s labor expert.
They shared management decisions with their mother, Martha (Schneider) Entenmann, who had kept the books and supervised the office during her husband’s lifetime. She became the face of the company – literally. When Entenmann went public in 1976, the company’s stock certificates bore an image of Mrs. Entenmann, known to hundreds of Bay Shore plant employees as Mrs. E.
The company stopped making bread and rolls in the 1950s to focus on cakes, pies and pastries. It also ditched its home delivery routes, moving to chain supermarkets and grocery stores.
In 1978, the family sold the business to Warner-Lambert, which at the time made everything from pharmaceuticals to candy. Entenmann’s has been owned since 2002 by Bimbo Bakeries USA, a division of a Mexican company that claims to be the largest commercial baker in the United States. In addition to Entenmann’s, Bimbo markets venerable bread and pastry brands such as Arnold, Sara Lee and Thomas’.
Charles Edward Entenmann was born in Bay Shore on July 12, 1929. He joined the family business after serving in the military.
He is survived by one son, Charles; one daughter, Susan Nalewajk; seven grandchildren; and several great-grandchildren. His wife, Nancy (Drake) Entenmann, died in 2014. A daughter, Barbara Thompson, died in 2018. Her brother William died in 2011, her brother Robert in 2016.
Mr. Entenmann retired after the sale to Warner-Lambert and moved to Florida, where he established two companies: Biosearch, to develop a self-contained power cell, and Biolife, to manufacture products that help stop bleeding.